Battle Over the Hijab

Photo by Tirazh Art Group on

They sit across a table in the interrogation room of the detention center.
She is Nasrin, a beautiful woman, 31, with expressive eyes and lustrous, shoulder length black hair.
She is not wearing her headscarf.
She was apprehended earlier in the day as she walked in a business section of Teheran without her hijab.
The policeman who had detained her had written a short note which lay on the table along with her identifying information.
The security officer, a wiry man in his mid thirties, nodded to himself as he read the note. Then, aloud to Nasrin…

Officer – ‘Woman ignored my call for her to stop and instead walked faster. Another policeman that was ahead of us saw me chasing her and he blocked her path and we both detained her. Arrogant. Stubborn.’

The officer looks at Nasrin directly.

Officer – Why?
Nasrin – Because it’s my body and it belongs to me and no one else.
Officer – But you are Muslim…
Nasrin – So far.
Officer – You want to change your religion?
Nasrin – Ha! I’m well aware that if I tried that I would be guilty of apostasy, punishable by life imprisonment or death.
Officer – Yes… we are who we are… and our rules come from the prophet who heard them from Allah. So… how is Islam making you unhappy?
Nasrin – Those rules were made by men, at a time when women were subservient. The world has changed and Islam should change with it.
Officer – Have you read the Qur’an?
Nasrin – It needs to be updated.
Officer (irritated) – Nasrin… please… I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.
Have you been to the West?
Nasrin – I haven’t. Not yet. But I plan to.
Officer – I see. What do you think the purpose of wearing hijab is?
Nasrin – To keep women down.
Officer – You are stubborn. I’m trying to help you but you’re not letting me. All you have to do is agree with the law and you can walk out. Why make life difficult for you?
Do you want me to send you to a tribunal of clerics so they can decide what punishment to give you?
Nasrin – Do you know what the real purpose of the hijab is?
Officer – Please be careful with your words because I don’t want to send you to detention.
Nasrin – The hijab is meant to protect men from their insecurities.
Officer – What?
Nasrin – A beautiful woman will attract other men’s attention and you can’t handle that…

Annoyed, the officer sits back.

Nasrin – … So you cover us up… but it’s up to us if we want to stay with the men in our lives… or go elsewhere… or simply be with no man… or woman. Our sexuality is ours… ours to share it with whom we want. That’s why this theocracy we live under is obsolete.
And the protests you’re seeing are about that. About the freedom of our bodies and the freedom of our minds.
We own our bodies and minds, not the clerics, not the ayatollahs, not the police, not you.
We give birth to men and women… if we stopped giving birth… if we refused to have you in our bodies… there would be no more Iran… that is our power. Now our work is to claim it, to affirm it.
Officer – Have you ever been married?
Nasrin – Not yet. Maybe I never will.
Officer – You don’t want to have children?
Nasrin – I don’t have to be married for that. My freedom is more important than anything else. And we, Persian women, are learning that. And it appears incompatible with living under this regime.
Officer – I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.
Nasrin – Do you have daughters?
Officer – Yes, I do.
Nasrin – Don’t you want them to be free?

The officer leans forward, looks down at the ground.

Nasrin – When we get our freedom, which we will, men will discover freedoms of their own that they didn’t know were possible.
Officer – What?
Nasrin – Your keeping us so controlled, keep you from becoming better men.

The officer looks straight at Nasrin, the expression stern. But then, to her surprise, he breaks into a chuckle as his eyes soften.

Officer – You’re going to put your hijab back on and you’re going to walk with me out of this place. We will walk two blocks, with you wearing your hijab. Then you will go your own way.
And if I ever see you again… I will ask you to share a meal with me.
Now, put your hijab back on and let’s walk out.

Nasrin does so, and the two walk out of the detention center. The guards at the entrance bow respectfully to the officer as he and Nasrin go by.

The World is Changing Fast

Photo by Jill Wellington on

The Russian Army is retreating – unthinkable a few weeks ago – and Saudi Arabia just said to Biden, ‘take a hike, we’ll do what we have to do to keep our coffers filled, and if we help Putin get wealthier, you’ll just have to live with it.’ And they added, ‘we know how important affordable gas prices are to you, with the mid term elections coming up and inflation running high, but business is business, and if Republicans take over congress, well, too bad. You should have bowed to us last time you visited, instead of just giving us the fist bump.’
Oh, Saudi Arabians and gulf states, you’re one of a kind.
If it weren’t for us the mullahs in Iran would long ago have swallowed you up, and you’d be kneeling before the ayatollahs, that blessed group of folks that the heavens sent us.
But all is not well there now either. Iranian women, who have long put up with the absurdity of having to live with the head scarves, have been taking to the streets in blatant defiance.
Something about freedom spurs them on. They have only one life to live so why defer to the ruling clerics?
My hope is that the movement they’ve started will keep growing until it overthrows the theocracy. What a wonderful message would they be sending to the world. ‘Rise, sisters, rise! If men don’t give a damn about our unfreedom, then we’ll fight the fight ourselves.’
The heroic battle for freedom in Ukraine deserves much credit for the ongoing changes.
They are inspiring people all over the world, telling us, ‘do not be intimidated, speak out, do not let others cow you into submission.’
Putin’s barbaric invasion has awakened the West. And the West is discovering powers it didn’t know it had. They’re discovering that they can cooperate, join forces, put up with hardships and learn from what mistakes they’ve made.
Neither Putin nor China thought the West could learn how to do so.
Of course, they had been encouraged to think that way by Donald Trump, who somehow got it into his head that America could become an island and live happily ever after.
Now a new balance of power is being forged.
The West and its allies are finding that they will be able to face down China and slowly begin to diminish whatever reliance they now have on them.
An official in Singapore said sometime ago, ‘we don’t want to have to choose between one side and the other.’ But they may have to.
The stronger the West, the more they will be an inspiration for the Chinese people now living under the oppressive rule of the communist party, with their insistence on suppression of free speech and constant surveillance. The communist party just can’t trust their own.
The Chinese are looking at the world and seeing the debacle in Russia. They ask themselves, ‘How come, when Putin calls for people to be enlisted, so many of them run for the border to escape being sent to fight in Ukraine? Isn’t there glory in fighting for your country?’
Not if you’ve not been allowed to have your own voice, like Putin has done in Russia and Xi Jinping is doing in China.
The powerful engines of the internet have helped spread the notion of freedom. Men and women all over the world want to hear their thoughts, want to hear the sound of what they think and share it with others. And they don’t want to live feeling intimidated by their leaders.
Instead, leaders of nations should be agents of change, people with the gift to free their brothers and sisters.
So fight on, brave Iranian women, fight on brave dissident Russians and dissident Chinese. Your time is now. No one should restrict your freedom.

Hijabs and Fertility

Photo by Tirazh Art Group on

On September 16th, Mahsa Amini, a 22 y/o woman of Kurdish origin, was detained in Tehran by the Morality Police, an outfit dedicated to enforcing strict adherence to the religious mandate of wearing head scarves and robes. She was visiting the city with her family. She died later that day while in custody. Physical abuse while in detention is suspected.
Long repressed resentment has led to protests and many dead across Iran.
Women have seized the moment to go on the offensive and reject the religious strictures aimed at suppressing their femininity. They have taken to publicly burning their hijabs or head scarves. Many have been incarcerated.
Yesterday, a NYT article reported that Iran’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a speech at a police academy graduation, blamed foreign interference for the disturbances. He cited the US and Israel, along with paid Iranian traitors as the main culprits. Videos on Twitter show scenes of people shot and of protesters at Sharif university, a technology center in Tehran.
But he never mentioned the effect the battle for freedom in Ukraine is having on Iranian women. Never mentioned the drones that Iran is selling Russia so they can more effectively kill Ukrainians.
Iranian women, long fed up with the regime’s repression, want freedom too.
They want their freedom to be women. Why should the gifts that nature gave them be covered up?
Why? To suppress their sexuality? Yes. To hide their looks and the power they have over men? Yes.
Women have reason to be angry that they are denied the option of showing their bodies. Apparently, the regime believes that would be too unsettling for Iranian men.
Allowing women to show their bodies is seen as too disruptive by the theocracy in power.
What will they want next? Political power? NO!
They must be kept in their places, under the control of men. Doing what religion says they ought to do. Bear children and be quiet.
And in a city square somewhere in Iran, I can hear the cry of a proud Iranian woman addressing a crowd of supporters, both women and men, as a bonfire sparkles and crackles before her.
‘It is up to us to change the rules that govern us, up to us women, because we are the most oppressed.’
She has her hijab in one hand as she steps forward and throws it into the bonfire.
Cheers rise from the audience. Some of the women in the audience step up to the bonfire and toss their hijabs into it also.
‘This fight is just starting… so what can we do to make our statement and improve our condition?’ continues the speaker.
And all the women raise their fists and start chanting, ‘Free Iranian women!’
And the speaker says, ‘We need to do something radical to gain our freedom… so let us all stop having sex!’
People in the audience laugh, at first incredulous, asking themselves, is she serious?
‘Yes’, resumes the speaker, ‘Let us stop having sex, even if you’re married. Stop. In the name of freedom. Stop. All women should say, we will not have sex and will not bear children until we are free to be who we are!’
‘Woman power!’ resume the chant from the audience, now more vigorous.
Some of the men in attendance laugh at first, but then slowly start joining in.
‘It has come to that point…’ restarts the speaker, ‘that we have to deny our nation a new generation… until such time as all of us women are granted our freedom.
To control us is unacceptable. The profound disregard for us have shown the ayatollahs to be inept. They should go back to their temples, get on their knees and ask god where was it that they went wrong.
So as difficult as it may seem, I ask that all Iranian women choose chastity… and deny our nation the option of fertility… for it is not a given.
For a woman to be fertile she must be respected… and we are not respected in our land.’
‘Woman power!’ resumes the chant from the audience. ‘Woman power!’
‘Long live Iran!’ cries the speaker, ‘and long live Ukraine… blessed nation and inspirer of people all over the world.’
Then a gun shot rings in the night.

Are We Becoming More Violent?

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

Two friends, Craig and Walter, talk about the state of the nation.

Craig – Would you say that we’re becoming more violent?
Walter – Yes, I’d say that.
Craig – What do you think contributes to it?
Walter – The internet.
Craig – How so?
Walter – It’s now so easy to put anything you think of out there. Without the benefit of inner censors. So the most outlandish ideas get to circulate and gain supporters.
Soon enough people start making things up. Twisting facts. Selling fake news.
It’s odd. The greater ease of publication has led to less thinking rather than more thinking.
People are quicker to insult, to bash other people.
In democracies, inner censors are crucial, but that’s the task of a good education.
Leading up to the 2020 elections there was a news thread going around saying Joe Biden was a pedophile. I remember talking to an otherwise intelligent person and she swore it was true. She had seen it in a website, she said. I told the person those ideas were trash but she didn’t believe me.
‘I’ll send you the link,’ she replied. ‘Please don’t.’
Craig – Where do you think we’re heading?
Walter – More violence.
The church has failed. They’re in to preaching violence also. Take Iran. Salman Rushdie writes The Satanic Verses and the ayatollahs order him killed.
Craig – Have you read the book?
Walter – Parts of it. Rushdie is a very talented writer. Great command of the language. Amazing ease with words. He was making fun of religious beliefs, playing with them, taking artistic license, if you will, because that’s his talent. We need people to help us see religion in another light. But the ayatollahs saw his work as a great offense and issued an order to kill him.
It tells me those clerics are all closed minded. Men with fragile egos, their view of the world so narrow. It’s too bad they’re so many people in that nation who have not organized to revolt against the government.
So, on the one hand the church has failed us and on the other, people haven’t stepped up and learned to think for themselves. So you might say we’re in a transitional period, in a moral void.
I think we’re transitioning to discovering we have a mind. That we can think on our own. That we don’t have to wait for an ayatollah or a pope or a Putin or a Xi Jinping or a Narendra Modi or a Donald Trump or a Ron DeSantis to tell us how the cookie crumbles. It’s very sad to see the lack of intellectual independence in human beings.
In school there should be courses teaching us to think on our own. But the parents probably won’t allow it, because they may think the teachers are socialists. The parents, not able to think on their own, don’t want to allow their children to find their intellectual freedom.
We need more and more education early on. Teach us how to learn to manage envy, to be kinder to others.
Craig – So what do we do in the meantime?
Walter – With a few exceptions, we don’t have our best people in politics. The task of leadership is a civic duty. More of our best and brightest should be encouraged to run for office and so counter the professional politician with their set of alliances and bad habits.
We need leaders who can talk to us weekly and say, this is what is happening in our world, this is what needs to be done and why. It takes courage to do that.
We need men and women willing to lead and are not afraid of not getting reelected. People who can do what is best for our country regardless of whether it will be seen as popular or not., apple podcasts

Salman Rushdie is Stabbed

Photo by Pixabay on

The distinguished writer was stabbed in public yesterday, in Chautauqua, N.Y., as he prepared to speak to an audience on the subject of America as a place for freedom of expression.
He had just taken his seat when the assailant went up on stage and started stabbing him.
Early reports speak of serious injuries to the liver, arm and the loss of an eye.
A religious edict to kill Mr Rushdie was issued in 1989, a year after the publication of his ‘Satanic Verses’ which was seen by Muslim authorities as blasphemous.
Iran’s current leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has said that the edict to kill the writer remained valid.
And now the assault has happened.
While living in Britain the author had police protection for 9 years. He’s lived in the US for the last 20 years both writing and teaching.
We’re told by the Chautauqua Institution, the host for the event, that state troopers were in attendance, for security purposes. I wonder why they weren’t near the stage, to bar a potential assailant. Or did they think the assailant would come down the hall draped in an Iranian flag as he shouted ‘death to Rushdie!’
Someone was not doing their job.
Recently, our Justice department charged an Iranian national with plotting to murder former security adviser Michael Bolton. Luckily, that action was intercepted.
But who will be next?
And so I ask, what’s the point of proceeding with a nuclear deal with Iran?
They can’t be trusted, no matter what they say or sign.
As those negotiations proceed, they’re starting to send drones to Russians so more Ukrainians will get killed.
Iranians are not hiding anything from us. They are being very clear. It is us that need to wipe clean our eyes and see them for what they are.
They’ll try anything. It wasn’t long ago that they were insisting that, as part of the negotiations, their Revolutionary Guards no longer be labelled terrorists. But that is what the Guards do.
As I understand it, if the nuclear deal is reenacted, we will be paying Iran billions of dollars in compensation for having broken the treaty during the Trump administration.
So, we give Iran money so they can build drones for Russians to kill Ukrainians and then also order operatives to come into our country to kill our former government officials?
It’s time to part company and stop trying to make a deal.
We should trust that, eventually, the forces of reason in Iran, will topple their oppressive theocracy. It is those people, now suffering under the weight of repression, who need our support. Not the Iranian governing class.
As for Mr Rushdie, I’m deeply saddened that this happened because it was preventable.
Ayatollah Khamenei should be charged with inciting the assault on Mr Rushdie and tried in the International Criminal Court.
And we must prepare for whatever has to be done., apple podcasts.

Responses to WSJ articles

Photo by Pixabay on

In the Opinion section, yesterday, 7/19/22.

Article ‘Biden’s Saudi Arabia visit was worse than an embarrassment.’
My response –
‘Glad Mr Biden stuck to his guns. No bowing to the prince. Fist bump was good enough. And the restating that he thought MBS was responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s death, a mark of political courage. Schiff didn’t like the president’s performance? Too bad. Don’t think Biden is worried.
The Saudis have to grow up. Take responsibility for their actions.
Like Russia and China better than the West? Go for it. can’t wait for the photo showing MBS embracing the exemplary human being that Putin is. Or hugging the ‘historical figure’ the Communists have made of Xi Jinping. Close my eyes and I can see them rising towards the heavens. Hand in hand.
As to Iran, they’re a problem but not crazy. Not yet. They’re likely to get a good deal of money for signing on again and give Israel more time to prepare for that moment when they finally build it. Our surveillance and that of the Israelis will detect if they choose to go crazy and build the bomb. We’ll be ready. It won’t be pretty.’

Theocracies of any kind are a form of arrested political development. Whatever your belief in a supreme deity, it is man who must learn to govern his affairs.
Theocrats thwart the development of the individual. They do it, not in the interest of furthering mankind but out of selfish reasons. Instructing their subjects on what to do and not, while they sweeten their own existences.

Article ‘Some risks are worth taking for Ukraine’
My response –
‘Why let Putin decide what is escalatory? Abiding by his terms is putting him on the driver’s seat. There are over three times more Russians than Ukrainians. Ukraine will run out of soldiers before Russia does. For the West to not firmly push for victory reveals timidity on our part. I am with those who have been advocating for sending planes to the Ukrainians. The idea that Russia will control more territory at the end of this conflict than it did before the start must not be acceptable. So let it be us to escalate instead. There will be no nuclear war because Putin doesn’t want to be burnt to a crisp and China will be the first to say, ‘Don’t do it because the West will nuke us too and we don’t want to see Xi roasting’

Whereas I feel Mr Biden has done an exemplary job in uniting the West, I believe there is room for more push. Leaders like France’s Macron have muddied the waters when he talks of not humiliating Russia. Oh so very mindful of Putin’s feelings, but meanwhile, thousands and thousands of Ukrainians keep dying and their infrastructure is ravaged.

We need to challenge Putin. Ukraine is ready to go on the offensive.

Oscar Valdes,,, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts

The Broader View: The Importance of Restraint

Trump orders the killing of General Suleimani and top aides and on 1/3/2020, the vehicle they were traveling in after arriving in Baghdad is hit by a rocket fired from a drone. They go up in flames.

Suleimani was in charge of Iran’s military interventions in the region (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Yemen) and thus responsible for much devastation and misery, including the death of Americans.

But how did we get there?

Deeply held rivalries in the area go back many years and have been increased by the establishment of the Israeli state, which we back.

Maintaining our commitment to supporting Israel does not mean, however, giving in to the wishes of their leaders.

The Middle East remains a cauldron of festering enmities shared by millions of people and which will require the concerted effort of enlightened local leaders to mitigate. And it will take many years for that to happen.

There will be no clear winner in that process and it is obvious that for a modicum of peace to be reached, a series of compromises and an abundance of education, restraint and economic development will be needed.

That long term view was the motivation behind the nuclear deal signed in 2015 between the US, Iran, China, France, England, Germany and Russia.

The deal called for Iran to stop the development of nuclear weapons for a 10 year period in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. The point of the deal was to gain us time. Precious time for Iran to develop economically, and for that development to take root in their people and in the surrounding area so that attitudes toward compromise became more amenable.

But that option did not seem sufficiently comforting to Netanyahu and company. They saw the nuclear deal as ‘appeasement’ of Iran. Anyway, it was an Obama idea and what did he know? It well suited Netanyahu’s bellicose instincts that the idea be scrapped.

But the nuclear deal would have been very acceptable to a man like former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by an Israeli extremist in 1995. (even developed nations murder their best, like we did JFK and Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy)

Men and Women make a difference. Yitzhak Rabin was a leader with an intelligence, imagination and compassion that Netanyahu has been incapable of emulating.  

When Netanyahu sees Trump become president, he sees his chance to scrap the nuclear deal. And it suited Trump just as well. For Trump, anything Obama did was tainted. And Netanyahu whispered the right words into his ears. Scrap the deal! Make us safer!

Was the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran an abandonment of Israel? Of course not.

We stand by that nation in good and bad times. That commitment has been made.

While the US is strong, Israel will always have a staunch ally and we will go to their side if they are in danger.

But that does not mean that we have to stop efforts at finding a compromise.

Trump, with his limited foresight, could not get it. He does not have that imaginative reach and we are the worse for it.

Iran has vowed retaliation for Suleimani’s death. There is no question that it will come. Such retaliation could take any shape, happen in foreign soil or on our own, be directed toward military installations or toward innocent civilians. Anyone of us could be a victim.

It should give us pause.

Pause to think why we elect our leaders. Pause to remind us that our choice of leader must have the ability to think under pressure, to have compassion, to have an imagination, to care for other human beings. It is not easy to find all those qualities in a person but seek them we must. Or we will pay for the consequences.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to view a photo exhibit of American soldiers who had died in the service of the nation. They were from all races. Men and women of various ages, who had committed to defending our nation. Each photograph was compelling. Each made me reflect.

Freedom has a price and those courageous men and women had volunteered to fight for all of us. The least they deserve is for our leaders to honor their commitment by being judicious in their choices.

Keeping such photo exhibit as a permanent installment in the White House, would help remind our presidents of what sacrifices Americans make.

Oscar Valdes

On Iran. A Little Thought, Anyone?


When Trump decided to pull out of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran his objective was to boost his macho image on the world stage. The agreement, flawed as it was, had kept us in diplomacy. Trump’s choice to break away from the pact shut us out of it. I suppose he’s keeping some people happy with his decision but our nation as a whole is the loser.

It is so easy to lose perspective on the subject. Sure, Iran is funding Hamas and Hezbollah and is a foe to allies in the region, but are any of those allies not dictatorial, except for Israel? No. Realpolitik? Okay, but not to boost the flawed ego of a failing president.

It is so convenient to forget how we’ve treated Iran. In 1953 we joined with Britain to overthrow a regime that wanted to nationalize their oil production. We felt we had the right to bully another nation into submission.

We installed the Shah which was no great gift to anyone other than he was willing to do our bidding. Finally, the Iranians had had enough and revolted. But soon after we were backing Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in a long bloody war against Iran that cost hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. No qualms of conscience. The war was far away from our soil.

As things went, it would not be long before Saddam turned against us, and so back in we went with guns blazing to attempt to mold another regime to our liking. Never mind the lack of evidence for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

After all that blood and treasure spent, can we say we have liberated Iraq? No. They will be very happy to see us leave and one day soon we will have to. Our legacy? Iraq has grown more sympathetic to Iran.

It is not difficult to see how a more thoughtful policy from the start could have delivered very different results and the Middle East would likely be a different story today. Where were the thinkers then? Where are they now?

Make America Great Again? Really. I see no trace of greatness in our record with Iran or Iraq.

But let us not lose hope.

The other day I saw that some people had come up with a line of clothing that said ‘Make America Think Again’. It might be the start of something.